This past weekend, I attended my 20-year high school reunion.
Crazy, right? I know you're sitting there thinking, "Wait,
how the fuck is it possible that MetroDad is having his 20-year reunion?
He's too young! Did he skip elementary school?"
Well, don't let the beautiful hair and insouciant attitude fool you, my friends. I really am as old as I pretend not to be.
All kidding aside...
I attended one of those effete NYC private
usually characterized by alumnae with an overabundance of self-worth.
As my older fellow alum and distinguished blogging friend, alice, uptown, opines, "the school is a
factory for over-privileged smart-asses. Ironically, it's an
academic institution that costs over $30K per annum these days -- yet
was named for the founder of free public education!"
See, this was not your typical school where you go back to your reunion, joke about the
football captain who became the bald manager of a bowling alley, or laugh
at the cheerleader who lost her looks and got divorced 5 times.
Shit, this is a school that didn't even have a football team or cheerleaders.
It's a small school where seven graduates have won Pulitzer
Prizes while many others moved on to become future literary stars, world-class musicians, and captains of industry.
Growing up, it was a sacrifice for my parents to send me there. My father's business was often feast-or-famine and, in
the early years, there was more than one occasion when I remember the
school calling up for that late tuition payment. However, being a
typical Korean immigrant father, he believed that nothing was more important than
his son's education and he was willing to make sacrifices on behalf of it.
However, NYC has changed over the years. In my opinion, private education in this city has been tainted by the influx of hedge-fund riches so outlandish that, for many people, $30K is the equivalent of their annual dry-cleaning bills.
I fully expected to show up to my reunion and be sorely disappointed that the vast majority of my classmates had turned out to become corporate lawyers or investment bankers.
And since I love rattling the cages of the creatively mundane, I contemplated imitating my fake girlfriend Amy Sedaris and buying a special custom-made fat suit. Then, I'd show up at the reunion in a powder blue tuxedo and introduce myself as "The Donut King of El Paso!"
For a brief moment, I also thought about showing up with a street hooker.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised at how my graduating class turned out. More than a few had dedicated their lives to public service and, interestingly enough, many had ended up becoming psychiatrists, artists, doctors, and journalists.
If anything, the reunion made my decision to send the Peanut to public school a little tougher to swallow.
See, on the one hand, I believe I had one of the best educations available anywhere in the country. My alma mater spares no expense when it comes to providing resources for its students. The classrooms, science labs, art studios, music facilities and technology operations are all state-of-the-art. And most students graduate speaking at least 2-3 languages fluently.
However, I'm a firm believer in sending Peanut to public school. Why? Many reasons, one of the most important being that I'm terrified of sending my daughter to a school where the student body believes "Gossip Girl" is based on them.
Besides, if public education is ever going to work in a city like New York, it's going to involve parents who can afford to send their kids to private school but choose not to.
That being said, the state of public education in this country scares the crap out of me. Sometimes, I think it's fitting that public schools are called P.S. because it often seems that they're treated as an afterthought.
Somehow, we've got to convince all Americans that paying teachers what they deserve is as good an investment in our future as, say, building more prisons. My mother spent 20 years as a public-school teacher and, at the end of the day, she probably could have made more money flipping burgers at McDonalds.
I never understood why it's so controversial to compensate teachers better. The only reason I can think of is because society realizes that we've got teachers firmly by the balls. For the most part, these people want to be teachers, and as is often the case in this country, when we know somebody loves to do something, we fuck them over on their paycheck, because we figure they're going to do it anyway.
Shit, we should be thankful that teachers are able to impart ANY lessons to our kids nowadays. As my mom's experience has taught me, being a public school teacher these days is not limited to the boring educational stuff anymore. Any time you need to go through a metal detector to get to work, you deserve to get paid more than minimum wage.
Now I'm not saying that increasing teacher pay is the solution to solving this country's educational system. I am saying, however, that it's a good place to start.
Personally, I think one of the reasons I want to send the Peanut to public school is because I'd like to test my pet theory that the single most important contribution to a child's education is the role that each parent plays in fostering that education. It seems to me that a lot of kids are going home to parents who are more interested in watching "Dancing with the Stars" than they are in their child's education.
Let me tell you something, my friends. I'm pretty sure that your child's education isn't a fluff-and-fold situation where you can drop the kid off at school, pick him up 12 years later and suddenly he's working on Fermat's Theorem with Marilyn vos Savant. If only it were that easy, right?
Whether you send your kid to public school or private school, none of it will mean anything if you don't get involved in your kid's education. That's why I refuse to give my three-year-old any dessert unless she asks for it in Latin. Besides, my dad used to give me more homework when I was younger than school ever did.
Anyway, all kidding aside, do you want to know the real reasons behind my obsession with education in this country?
I selfishly believe that the decline in our public school system is having a deleterious effect on me personally. I can tell that my readership isn't quite as educated as it used to be. See, I like to salt my remarks with the best of Shakespearean literature, but I'm just not getting the response I once did with such pithy observations like, "Shit, I haven't had a meal that bad since Titus Andronicus invited me and the gang over for dinner to Tamora's house!"
In fact, I'm pretty sure only a handful of readers are going to even get that joke ("Help me, Dutch-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.")
Anyway, I'll stop babbling now. I just want to end this nonsensical rant by saying that if our schools don't start doing their jobs better, I'm going to have to resort to getting laughs on this blog just by saying the word "Motherfucker!"
And we wouldn't want that to happen, would we? MOTHERFUCKERS!
By the way, for those of you who have e-mailed me privately asking about the reunion, my replies are as follows:
(1) Fat but not bald.
(2) Chicken fingers, a veggie burger, and a little weed.
(3) Not Cindy Crawford. More like Joan Crawford.
(4) 3:00 am.
(5) Echo & the Bunnymen
Next: My high-school photo. A little Bershon, perhaps?